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THE SHASTA GATE
A Novel By
Dick Croy 9413 Southgate Drive Cincinnati, OH 45241 (513) 984-0131
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
The true union you ought to seek with creatures that attract you is to be found not by going directly to them but by converging with them on God sought in and through them.
Teilhard de Chardin Hymn of the Universe “Pensees”, Number 36
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
THE SHASTA GATE
One-hundred-thousand years ago – some 900 centuries before the Atlantic Ocean is supposed to have covered the lost continent which bears its name – another, far larger land mass may have existed in the vast area that is now the Pacific Ocean. According to legend, it was known as Lemuria, or the land of Mu, peopled by a race more advanced in many ways than modern man. Then, in a catastrophic upheaval of global proportion, a new ocean was born – and a continent and civilization were all but destroyed. Only the highest mountains, on Lemuria’s eastern coastline, remained above water, so the legend goes. To these snow-capped promontories, on what is now the west coast of North and South America, a few survivors were able to flee. And their descendants may live there still.
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Chapter 1 The Indian dreamed. In his dream the sky was a strange and ominous yellow, as if seen through the smoke of a prairie fire. Things had an amber, graphic quality and spoke directly to the mind in a primitive, or intuitive, language of color. The mountain was as stark, as "present" as he had ever seen it; and born in its shadow, he had been its disciple for nearly 80 years. The dream is a dream of prophecy, said a part of his mind not asleep. The speaker is the Mountain. Then he saw the stallion, mane and tail behind him like a rocket's contrail, streaming across the meadow. The stallion was Jebel Druze, outside of dreams the sire of prize–winning Arabians throughout the West, the prolific and lucrative stud of a breeding ranch run by
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the Indian and owned by a San Francisco industrialist. To the Indian the stallion was, first of all, Catherine's horse. In Ram's dream he was the fountainhead not of horseflesh but of revelation. In his dream the sky boiled around the mountain until it was wreathed in cloud. The ring of cloud was like a spoken word which the Indian strained all of his senses to perceive. The stallion was the leading edge of a swirling wind born in the depths of the mountain and churned into frenzy round its volcanic cone. That cry, that moaning howl which filled his ears, was the sound of no atmospheric wind. It was the voice of the mountain speaking through the animal – in a language older than even the Indian could imagine. Shasta had spoken to Ram before but never like this, in dream. The rare mystical experiences had always been preceded by days of solitude and fasting, in rituals of his people which lived in him because he shaped them after his own fashion, to his own ends. Having begun for him as vast tribal pageants in which as a child he participated much as the leaves unquestioningly portray the design of the seasons, with his maturation these
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy rituals had become Ram's own personal dramatizations of the spirit of nature. By acting out, by living, what nature seemed to be saying, he became the speaker. Like summer rain, the words became a torrent and then lost
themselves in flow. The whisper, the single voice, became a chorus, with the whole of nature speaking through him at once of all things. Ram heard the voice of the mountain for the first time as a young boy, during his first independent role in the ongoing tribal drama: his trial of initiation. Three days and three nights he had gone without food and sleep, with only enough water to moisten his parched lips and throat. He and four others, none of whom had yet lived to see twelve cycles of the seasons, had been stripped and sent alone onto the mountain. If it was his time to join the tribe as a man, each would receive a message from the spirit world which would direct the whole course of his life to come. And to Ram, in August of his eleventh year, the mountain had spoken. He had felt the coming of the messenger within himself, as if he gave birth to the vision that would guide him, as the women of the tribe had given birth to
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy all the generations of his people. Like some terrible
bird of prey, the messenger had uprooted the vision with savage talons from the center of his being. From that time, the mountain – whether it spoke to him directly or through another – had always summoned him first to a preparation of fasting and meditation. Never had it spoken to him from a dream in the midst of his daily life. On its surface the message might seem to be about the arrogant young woman who came to claim the horse for another summer. But in three–quarters of a century the Indian had learned nothing if he had not learned to see beneath the surface of things. Catherine Conrad, after all, was more than she herself realized, and Ram sensed that the message was concerned with her shadow self: that part of her being only hinted at, in vague and distorted outline, by her physical presence in the world. Was it time to illuminate that phantom self, which at present, like all shadows summoned by the sun, served only to reveal life's radiant Source impeded? Perhaps it was even time to embody the phantom: into this world the word made flesh. If the horse was the
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy mountain's voice, and this dream its language, what was
Catherine – and Ram himself – but its living medium: the spirit's gateway to the world? Chapter 2 Why was this happening now, when tomorrow night she'd be alone again at the ranch? Why couldn't she have gone just one more night on the strength of all they had shared these past two years? She had sensed this summer away from him would end it – but to stop one night short! And once it had started like this, her mind creeping in like the fog that enveloped their apartment – she could feel and smell it in the room with them – once her mind returned from wherever it went when she made love, it was never satisfied to stay there in the back of her head where it usually resided: the silent and generally cynical observer. That would be bad enough – this uninvited voyeur coolly regarding their act of love. But if it intruded at all, it invariably had to comment on what it observed, dragging her from her dream of love–making to chatter stupidly about what was beyond words. She loathed this, and detested her helplessness to stop the process once it
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy had begun. Now of all nights, the last night she'd spend with Bill this summer – possibly the last night she'd ever
spend with him – and her fucking mind had spread through her body like a cancer. Wherever his body touched hers, her mind was there to record the contact and to monitor her response, her dream of abandon become a nightmarish web of entanglement. Had all this happened in the few minutes since they'd undressed and come to bed, or had it begun with her telling him earlier in the evening that she'd decided to spend another summer at the ranch after all, and the bitter argument that had precipitated – ended, as she'd always been able to curtail all their quarrels, by her soft surrender to the dream: beckoning him, cajoling him, entreating him to follow her inward. Had it started even earlier, months ago, when she'd felt the first tremor of dissatisfaction with Bill's determined climb through social activism to the carefully entrenched position he'd envisioned for himself, and now focused on with such discipline, in the San Francisco professional hierarchy?
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy Who cares when it started. Why this ejection from the womb, this scalpel–intrusion of the mind? What good is the dream for controlling – no not "controlling"; simply reducing the friction in a relationship...what good is it if the membrane's too weak to hold. Sex was her refuge, her power. To lose both...the thought panicked her. It had been hard enough getting beneath his anger. She knew she'd have to deal with it all over again
tomorrow. But then the road would be waiting. In a couple of hours she'd be packed. Nothing could hold her back then. "Goddamnit, Catherine, I don't believe you!" he'd yelled at her. "You wait till the night before you're leaving to tell me you're going up there again? That's damn inconsiderate!" His jaw began to quiver, compromising the look of outrage in his eyes. For a moment longer he held her with them, but finally the trembling jaw defeated him and he turned abruptly away, flinging his arm with an oath against the empty air. Her own voice was a monotone which, flat and tightly controlled though it was, seemed to her to fill the room.
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As she listened, it became the room, and she stood there, feeling her feet against the floor to keep from falling, inside the dead words. "I didn't make up my mind till yesterday that I was going. You put me on such a guilt trip about it the last time, I wasn't sure I wanted to go through all that again." "Well are you sure now? You wanta spend the whole summer up there? What about me? You know I sure as hell can't be with you, unless I come up for a weekend or something." What about Bill? What could she say? What the hell did it matter – wasn't it just throwing words into an abyss? "...I think it'll be good for both of us to be away from each other for a while," she heard herself saying. "You ought to go somewhere too. Get out of here for a few weeks." "But not come up to Shasta huh? Well, I couldn't if I wanted to, Catherine. I can't just leave work like that. Someone has to exercise a little responsibility." "So the rest of us can fuck off, right? Well I
can't wait to get up there in all that open space. I'm
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy suffocating here, Bill. And it doesn't have anything to do with you. The ranch was part of my life ten years before I met you. I love it – it's still part of me. You've just got to accept that."
Bill tended to delayed emotional reactions, largely from the attempt to overrule his initial, spontaneous outbursts with reason. He'd become an open–minded, level– headed human being if it killed him, and Catherine figured that in the long run it probably would. His emotional restraint, when it held up, was one of the things she told herself and friends that had first drawn her to Bill, indicative as it was of his mature character. Even she was scarcely aware of how much she despised it. Invariably, when the blow–up finally came, the original emotion had been compressed and distorted into impenetrable hostility. This is probably what she'd have to face tomorrow – but not for long. She and her BMW – "Be My Woman" was one of the pet names Bill had for it and "Bed mit Windows" for the few times they managed to have sex in it – would be leaving this all behind: the relationship with Bill which no longer satisfied; school,
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy which forced her to live in the city; the cocoon of
errands, decisions and responsibilities which life in the city entailed. For the whole damned summer! ...Ironically, for the time being Bill had escaped into the dream she was providing, while she herself was locked out. She began to fantasize. This wasn't Bill thrusting his manhood and repressed anger into her. She retranslated the furious energy of his communication, slowing it in her mind, liquefying it with her body. Fantasy always made of her lovers more than they'd made of themselves. Her created entity needed a face; but as in a dream her lover's identity eluded her. She imagined that he called out to her. His way of holding and entering her was eloquent, irresistible, voracious. It wasn't enough to be fucking her body; he demanded her soul. But with such beseeching love, such virile, masculine pleading. Who was this? She tried to picture him, to see into his eyes, the expression on his face as her phantom lover plunged so givingly, withdrew so ruthlessly – beating the hard straight surface of her bed into a shell of light, into
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy which she felt her softened pliant spine curling, her legs drawn up in insatiable surrender, her pelvis and tunneled womb rocking, reaching for the last ounce of that thrusting, loving...a warm, liquid shudder swept
through her longing body. At last Catherine felt herself borne away by the dream. Now she slept. Bill felt her surrender as a series of light tremors and cupped his hand protectively beneath her elbow. She lay across his arm, in a position as familiar to him as the sound of her breathing. And though the knowledge that she was leaving tormented him, it was assuaged by wave upon wave of love for her, flowing out from him beyond control, like the release of sobbing. ...While Ram, 400 miles north of them, grunted in his sleep and prepared to meet the stallion Jebel Druze. Chapter 3 Flat out. A rare stretch of smooth Baja highway and Eugene had the Harley wide open. The faint, irritating vibration he'd been trying to diagnose all morning dissolved beneath the throb of the hefty 1200 cc engine. He felt it go first in his left thigh, which brushed against the gas tank. Then even his hands, even the tips
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of his fingers through his gloves could no longer detect the shimmy of protesting metal. Suddenly his whole body relaxed and, in its release, he felt for the first time – like a momentary after–image – the tension his body had sympathetically absorbed from the distressed machine. In its sudden departure, his senses surged out away from the bike to re–create the spectacular Baja coastline of the Gulf of California. Made languorous by the morning sun, its restless waters caressed a golden arm of sand with lazy white fingers of surf. The vivid stippled blue surface was streaked with green and interrupted in places by glassy slicks which to the surrounding water were like slippery epithelial tissue next to bare skin; the shelllike aquamarine curl of the breakers reminded him of the inside of his cheek. Eruptions of rock broke the surface to reveal an under–layer of white, and the sun's glare on the water was like a hole burned in the retina, a dazzling void. The moist sea air smacked his face with renewed pungency, smelling of brine, kelp, shellfish...its primal female odor inspiring his own personal X-rated drive-in movie, at eighty miles an hour. The sudden profusion of
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images, their vividness, surprised him. They were even a little unsettling. To have his need suddenly naked and exposed like that. He let them go, in favor of sensations of the moment: the full-throated affirmation of the bike; the sun's white dazzle; the rush of wind in his face. He leaned into a long left turn along the cliff's edge on the sea–side of the highway, and felt the road as an extension not only of his senses but of his will. His right hand gunned the bike out of the turn, the horizon leveled smoothly. He rocked his pelvis in the seat, shook his shoulders loose, tightened and relaxed his gloved hands on the grips. A hundred miles before he'd stop for a break.
"Catherine, tell me...really, why you had to wait till last night to let me know you were going up there." Bill slouched morosely against the settee in the foyer of their apartment. From here he could watch her determined packing in both the bedroom – where she was pulling things from two chests of drawers and yanking pants and blouses out of her side of the closet – and in the living
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
room, where for some reason she had deposited one of her three suitcases in the middle of the floor, even though most of what was going into it she was carrying one or two items at a time all the way from the bedroom. Maybe this somehow helped cut down on what finally went into it, he decided, surveying the hectic scene around him with a critical sneer he was scarcely aware of. This was his customary attitude in observing any activity of Catherine's from which he was excluded, magnified now by an anxiety slowly becoming despair. But the sneer, expressed rather than implied, was new. Bill had high regard for the young woman bustling about so oblivious to his pain; it was just that for some reason she become strangely inept whenever undertaking anything in his presence which went against his wishes. He knew she was not simply unaware of him but consciously shutting him out. He'd seen her do it with others. When they'd first met, he considered himself enough older and wiser than she that he could anticipate such a move and sidestep it. Later he felt their relationship had progressed beyond the possibility of a separation's, an anticipated separation's, occurring in
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy other than some kind of mutually agreed–on, lovingly arbitrated manner. Reality could be so chilling. "Please don't give me any bullshit this time about
not knowing till yesterday that you were going up there, okay?" Catherine gave him a quick look, then plunged again into the disorder of her packing, a little more grimly now. Bill had given way to an at once vivid yet vaguely detailed figure that she knew to be her father: her father as an adversary, with layer upon layer of hurt, anger, frustration and resentment built up like a photographic image somewhere behind her eyes. That's where she seemed to see it, but the invasive image – or was she inviting it? – was burning a hole in her insides. She focused on her simple task as if it required the last ounce of her concentration. "...Listen, I know I blew up at you last night, and I'm sorry about it. I wish we'd talked it over reasonably. We should have, instead of going to bed and making love as if nothing had happened. But since we didn't, can’t we talk about it now, for Christ's sake?" "You're taking this as a rejection of you," she said. "I knew you would. Everything's always for you or
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy against you. But the fact is, Bill, this is just
something I want to do that doesn't include you. It's not a rejection. "This is the same thing we went through last year. I guess I just put it out of my mind, making a decision about whether or not I was going. I didn't want the hassle." Catherine had just gone from conciliation to exasperation, believing for a moment that she could actually reach Bill, and then – seeing his set jaw, the desperate anger in his eyes – feeling her own anger and frustration flood to the surface at being put on the defensive like this, being made wrong. There wasn't anything wrong with her going away for the summer! It was really her knowing in advance that he would react this way, try to refuse her the right to live her life the way she damn well pleased, that had resigned her to the possibility of not returning to him. If somehow she could go up there and get this city and the rest of her frustrations aired out on Jebel Druze – restore herself in the serenity and solitude of that magnificent country under Shasta's gaze, in her almost mystically intimate conversations with Ram – and then
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy come back to Bill likewise freshened and renewed by a
summer on his own, wouldn't their relationship have been strengthened by the separation? But what connection was there between a fantasy like this and the real world, where problems only multiplied, mushroomed, never resolved themselves neatly through patience and tolerance – love? Couldn't Bill see that they both wanted the same thing for themselves but that life, having merged their paths in the first place so that they ran along together for awhile, intertwined and mutually sustaining...this same relentless flow of life was now simply diverting these same paths – and there wasn't a goddamned thing either of them could do about it? She could just as easily rail at him for driving her away with his patronizing and superior attitude, his stifling possessiveness. Christ, her secure little world was disintegrating too, but she didn't hold him responsible. It's fucking life, man! Suddenly her eyes brimmed with tears. Both arms full, she stood there in the middle of the floor, unable to see, unable to wipe away the tears. Turning from him,
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy she lowered her head and tried to hold in the anguish,
the confusion. If she let go now...this obsessive packing was all that was keeping her together. "Oh, Katy..." Somehow Bill had unburdened her arms and enclosed Catherine in his own in one sweeping motion; she shrank gratefully into their strength and protection. He folded her deeper to his breast and, to each of them, it felt as if they were falling together from a great height. She could hold back her sobs no longer. They burst from her in a strange hysterical music, punctuated by great clumsy racking spasms from Bill. They cried for the hurt they had caused each other; they cried for their lost love and their loneliness. It seemed to them that they stood for all the helpless souls in the world and that all loves were destined to end this way: wells finally run dry, their last traces of water vanishing into soil as used up and dead as sand. Chapter 4 Ram had risen at dawn. The crisp morning air as he walked across the paddock to the barn vaporized his breath even as the sun, still well below the horizon, was emblazoning the mountain's snow–covered summit. But for
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy this orange flame at its mouth – as if the ancient volcano had awaken at last and yawned now in fearsome
anticipation of the day – the sleeping giant was cloaked still in darkness. The Indian gazed hard at its dim features as if to read in them the full meaning of his dream. He laughed to himself even as he did so; Shasta didn't sleep that soundly. He turned and walked into the rich reek of the horse barn. The smells of horse, feed, manure and leather arose from the darkness to greet him, so strong they bled into his other senses. He seemed to see their exhalation in the dark, to hear the creak of leather in the tack room. The appaloosa heard his approach and neighed, thrusting his head over the stall, lifting his head attentively in greeting. "Tawahani," the Indian grunted warmly, laying his thick hand gently on the horse's nose. The appaloosa snorted and tossed his head, and the two of them shared an otherwise silent communion. "Catherine comes today, Tawahani. We must go out and bring in the stallion." He opened the door to the stall and slipped on the rope halter hanging there. The horse
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accepted it unquestioningly and followed him to the tack room, eager for the exercise to come. Ram draped the worn but clean blanket across his back, threw on the saddle and cinched it in a ballet of absolutely unwasted motion. It was a perfect mime of the operation, only the essentials, performed unconsciously out of long habit for the satisfaction it gave both him and the animal. The horse stood still under his hands, sides quivering, ears twitching. Mounting in the same precise, effortless manner, Ram merely touched the horse with his calves. They were in motion, gliding across the paddock, down the gravel drive to the highway. Then they were in open meadow, slipping through the gray morning as one. Ram gave the appaloosa his head, holding the reins loosely, musing still on the stallion and his role in the dream of the night before. He would be somewhere in the high pasture this morning, with his dozen mares and their ten foals. They had been put out just a few weeks earlier, as soon as the newborns were strong enough, to get as much of the spring grass as they could before the summer took its life. The harem would follow the stallion
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy to the ranch and Ram would have to take them back out later without him. Eight years ago Jebel Druze had been her father's
gift to Catherine on her twelfth birthday. He was hers to ride in the summer, and the ranch's champion stud the rest of the time. Her mother had been opposed to this arrangement in spite of the youngster's precocious skill and cool head with horses. She had ridden stallions before, but to have one for an entire summer seemed to her mother an unnecessary provocation of fortune. "To give a young girl a horse like that is no better than gambling with her life at cards!" she had stormed in reference to her husband's passion for losing an almost fixed percentage of their income as a preferred customer at one of the better–known Vegas casinos. He was a conservative and extremely successful man in most things. Perhaps his gambling allowed him to live more comfortably with that success, made it seem less automatic, somehow more earned and certainly more attractive. He had a need as well for the showpiece, the grand gesture. The breeding ranch was one of these and so probably was the striking young girl on the Arabian
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stallion. Over the years Catherine had had a few mishaps with the horse but nothing more serious than a compound fracture of her right leg when he fell on it in a ravine. That had happened three summers ago and had not diminished her enthusiasm for either riding or her beloved Jebel Druze. The accident had been her own foolhardy fault and had sobered her. Had it been Jebel's leg, he'd likely have been destroyed. All she lost was a summer's activity. Her father rarely visited the ranch. Just knowing it was there, that its reputation for quality enhanced his own, was enough. He knew that the Indian disapproved of him; that had had a lot to do with his being hired in the first place. The disapproval he had read in Ram's eyes when introduced to the mediocre facility he'd been asked to build into a first-class breeding ranch confirmed a side of Conrad's self–image that no one else had ever had the capacity to see – or at least to communicate to him. It censured without judgment, something Conrad was unable to manage, with himself or anyone else. The Indian was a mirror and the censure actually came from Conrad himself but unattached to blame and
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy therefore unimpeded by defensiveness. He knew intuitively, although perhaps not consciously, that having Ram involved in his life in this way was of benefit to him. He could see into the mirror from a distance, at any time, from wherever he happened to be. To look into it directly was usually more than he could handle. Catherine didn't give her father this much credit.
She was aware of a more obvious way in which he used Ram, because it involved something she had inherited from him: a fierce love of the Western myth. To Conrad, a man of accomplishment, whose self–worth was measured by the things he did, or took credit for, the ranch and the long string of champion horses tied him into the winning of the West. They told him he'd have been just as successful when the frontier was being blazed, by men who loomed as giants in his mind. The Indian was the first to make that connection for him. Nothing and no one else had been able to do it. Since her graduation from high school, Conrad rarely saw his daughter. They were two independent souls who had never quite accepted that in the other. Catherine told
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy herself that she respected this quality in him, not having learned yet that what she thought of as her
father's independence was her own mental abstraction. It put him in good company, conjuring up pictures of the stone–faced men of action and determination who had shaped the destiny of her land. What was real about this quality in him, of course, was his behavior, which had always shut her out of much of his life. She resented him for this – all the more deeply because, without realizing it, she was trying to honor him for it at the same time. What Conrad found disturbing enough in his daughter to make him increasingly more willing to follow her vindictive lead as they drifted further and further apart was another of those mirrors. This one indelibly retained impressions, reflecting a child's lifetime of parenting. And this one, too, he found easier to deal with at a distance. ...Morning was opening to horse and rider – the meadow was a carpet of light. Ram's body resonated with the appaloosa's tireless fluid canter like the chamber of a stringed instrument, calling forth a flood of vivid imagery from his past. As if he and the horse left a
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy spangled wake behind them in the cool transparent morning: a bar of Ram's music. He neither held on to these pictures nor resisted them; they simply flowed through him. He sensed they were part of an emptying or
cleansing process, which had begun recently, to help free his soul of its earthly ties. While he moved through it, his eyes were constantly scanning the folds and ridges of the meadow for the horses. They'd be up here somewhere; he could feel them nearby. The mountain was fully lit now – its mystery, to the average eye, overwhelmed by a more ordinary reality. Below the snow–pack, suggestion and shadow had become sheer cliffs and ridgelines, forests scarred by deep canyons and vast fields of scree: the rock slide's fury turned to rubble, frozen in time. A great billowing mass of cloud weighted the horizon, and the peculiar lenticular or lens–shaped cloud which often hovered over the mountain had begun to form. Later when the wind came up and the cloud mass left the shoulders of the land to stream across the sky, the mysterious ring around Shasta's summit would hold, continually dissipating and re–forming in an illusion of
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy permanency: a curious anomaly in the midst of an otherwise constant flow of thick cumulus past the peak. Suddenly both Ram and his mount heard the high– pitched neigh of a mare. They were upwind from the nervous warning; their scent or the sound of their approach had reached the horses. "They are in the arroyo, Tawahani!" The appaloosa needed no urging. The easy ride had
warmed and loosened his muscles and he stretched them out now in fierce pride under his master. Feeling his excitement, Ram gave the horse full rein and they tore up the incline as if caught in a sudden updraft. Mane, tail and the Indian's long hair were taken by surprise and flew to catch up. Near the top of the slope Ram pulled the horse in so as not to come thundering over the rim of the gully; he had too much to do to spend the rest of the day rounding up the Arabians. When they did come into the herd's view it was slowly, with an air of majesty – which the appaloosa affected as naturally, for the benefit of his brethren, as did the Indian. His ears and tail erect, his head held high, he snorted and pranced in short high
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy steps to the side as Ram held the reins taut. "Look at the young A-rabs, Tawahani. The meadow gives them desert legs." The weeks had done wonders for the once–frail and
spider–legged foals. They owned the meadow now – although at the moment they weren't too sure about the strange two–headed creature at the top of the arroyo. They trotted as a group over to the mares, on legs now firm and resilient. Their sense of security restored, they began to make individual sorties out away from the others, sniffing the air, their sharp pointed little ears working like antennae. Then something would spook them and they'd turn and scamper back to the safety of the others. To Ram, it was a circus. His keen and expert eye had quickly told him that all was well with the harem, and with the stallion. Jebel Druze stood haughtily at a distance. He recognized the intruders and waited to see why they had come. Ram greeted him in his mind and turned his attention again to the antics of the foals, who were becoming increasingly bolder. A colt with three stockings and a blaze, which he remembered as the most curious before
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy they'd been put out to pasture, had actually climbed
partway up the rocky slope and was looking around to make sure his brothers and sisters were watching. Ram's amusement got the better of him and he laughed aloud. The youngster turned in almost a hop, tucking his butt under him and descending in a clatter of loose rocks. This spooked the rest of them and they milled excitedly about their mothers with falsetto little whinnies. Ram knew each mare well and noticed how they individually reacted, with some soothing their foal's fears and others snorting reprovingly. Of the two who had not given birth, Serena, who was becoming something of an old maid, was especially caustic. She reached out to nip at the retreating Three–stockings, prompting a curt unmistakable warning from his mother. The cause of all this commotion in the first place, Ram decided it was time to ride in and settle things down. Stroking the appaloosa's neck to reassure him that he had not been forgotten in the company of all these high-bred Arabians, he eased him carefully down the steep side of the arroyo. At this, snorting, the stallion finally cantered over to assert his leadership. The
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy Indian laughed in a sort of shared male camaraderie as
the magnificent animal sauntered up to them and stopped, barring their path to the harem. "You're proud of your winter's work, ay, desert chieftain? Well, soon we display your heirs for all Siskiyou County – all of California – to see. How about that?" As he spoke to the horse, Ram stretched his left arm out slowly and gently urged the appaloosa forward until he could almost touch the stallion's nose. Then it was Jebel Druze who advanced a step, to investigate the carrot the Indian held. Nibbling the treat from Ram's hand, he took it between his teeth and snorted while loudly munching the carrot. The sweet smell of his breath reached Ram's nostrils. Then he tossed his head imperiously, lest the Indian think this stallion could be bought so cheaply. But he made way for them to pass. Ram wanted to examine the foals before leading them back to the ranch. The mares, who knew the Indian and his mount, nevertheless had their mothering instinct to contend with. These few weeks at pasture had sharpened it at the expense of their recognition and trust of the man. They were not hostile but wary.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy He spoke to the first of them in a voice full of
conviction, less condescending in tone than an impatient teacher might use with a slow student. "He is a fine colt, Lalla. It is not for nothing your mother is called the Golden Goose, youngster. She lays such beautiful eggs." He slipped from the saddle and the colt, Three– stockings, approached him diffidently in a spiral of curiosity at war with fear. Finally Ram's beckoning hand was too much to resist. It feels strange, but reassuring he said in every way but verbally as Ram ran his leathery hands over the youngster's sleek quivering body. This taught the others to relax; in a moment the Indian was surrounded by the curious eager foals. "Hah, little ones, the spring grass feeds your spirit – especially you, little fox–ears! And what a croup you have," he said to a dainty little filly who had danced up behind him to nuzzle his elbow. He lay the palm of his hand on her haunches in front of her tail. "Flat enough to set a meal on. "And look at you, with your eyes already bulging like a young sheik's. Tell your sister the Unicorn to come here." This filly, whom Ram had named for her
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy particularly striking jibbah, the Arabian's characteristic bulge at the brow, was the shiest of the foals. He wouldn't be content until he'd shown her the gentleness of his ways. As with the stallion, Ram began
to speak to her mentally – cajoling her, visualizing her coming over to be caressed, then feeling her lean lithe body under his hand, the softness of her chestnut coat over the contours of a splendid conformation. This little filly would not only be another champion but a fine brood mare. She cast him a sidelong look. Come, little shy one said Ram's eyes, these hands will watch over you. They'll help you grow and give you trust and confidence in man. The Unicorn whinnied softly and glanced nervously at the other foals. Ram knew that she felt threatened by this strange, alien presence in her mind. "You are tense and afraid," he said gently. "Let me touch your fear. These are hands for taking fear away." The filly whinnied again rather piteously and shook her head, then walked slowly up to him. Ram did as he had promised, his hands drinking the tension from her taut body until he felt the muscles relax beneath his fingers
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy and his mind's eye detected around her a shining, what most psychics call an aura. Three–stockings was not getting enough attention,
and the Unicorn, who was getting far too much, was about to learn something of jealousy. You couldn't say there was real fire in Three–stockings' eyes; a mischievous scowl would be closer to the truth. He laid his ears back and bared his teeth. The filly squealed as Ram turned just in time to see the colt nip her on the rump. "Hah! That's not the warrior's way!" he said gruffly, barely suppressing laughter. The filly sprang a few steps away, finishing with a belated kick for practice. Laughing now, Ram remounted and walked the appaloosa evenly over to Jebel Druze, who stood apart from the others. It was time to do what he had come for. "Today you have a visitor," he said. The stallion didn't move as Ram slipped the halter over his proud head. When he brought the snorting animal around past the harem, the stallion's commanding guttural whinny told the mares he had surrendered nothing. They rounded up their foals to follow him. Ram checked to see that all were ready around
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy her and then they were off. From a distance, as the Arabians streaked across the meadow beneath the rising sun, they were like stones in an Indian necklace shimmering against a piece of brilliant green fabric. Chapter 27 The scent of evening was already in the air when
they arrived at the falls. A hundred yards ahead of them the setting sun had turned a long filament of water into a shimmering scarlet ribbon. Catherine was speechless. For a moment Eugene had the feeling that she and the falling water were actually connected in some way, as if it were a projected, exquisitely-focused image of her emotion – or as if it were cascading not just there at the head of the ravine but right here beside him. Extremely moved, he stepped behind her and put his arms around her waist. "...Isn't it beautiful?" she murmured. "A lovely ribbon for your hair," he said, lifting it from her shoulders to his face, closing his eyes as he inhaled its warm dusky fragrance. She turned. His arms opened to enfold her again, his hands drinking the warmth, the scent, the feel of her body as her own slim arms tightened around him and she felt the muscles of his
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy back tense against them. Then she lifted her face and
their mouths came together as they had that first night. They became their mouths: lips, tongues and clashing teeth; because the mouths knew – the slippery epithelial tissue, the breath, the teeth, the saliva... the mouths knew. As did the hands – the hands knew. And their bodies: the legs intertwining and locking, seeking a closer, tighter embrace, the urgent movements then softening and harmonizing, beginning to flow together. ...And then, as suddenly as it had arisen, the passion ebbed, this time for both of them. They were together now. They both heard the music and it was the same music. It was their music. When they parted, some essential part of themselves remained commingled and seemed to tear away from their bodies. What exquisite pain! Was that a gaping hole in his chest, Eugene wondered, or an incredible lightness. Only in retrospect did he perceive the density of flesh and bone bound within itself. Confused and agitated, he reached up to release his headband and realized for the first time that it wasn't there. He remembered immediately where he'd left it.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy "What's wrong?" Catherine laughed.
"Nothing; I left my bandanna back where we camped." "I wondered why you were letting your hair go au naturel. Hey, even the Lone Ranger's gotta take his mask off sometime....Who is this masked man?" He smiled. "Stay tuned." She laughed and threw her arms around him, this time in excitement and pleasure rather than passion. "You're all right, Mr. Motorcycle Man." "Well thank you. You’re pretty fine for a horsewoman yourself."
It was exceptionally warm for so early in the summer; they had allowed their campfire to burn itself to embers. Catherine saw and felt in the coals her own languorous passion. To Eugene the evening around them was resonant with intimation. In the reflected radiance of her solar relationship, the moon revealed a younger yet more constant union: Shasta and his consort, created from the mountain's flank like Eve from her husband's rib... while moon, mountain and the past alike looked down on them in benign indifference.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy "It's been a wonderful day," Catherine sighed. She
was sitting with her knees drawn up, one arm hugging her legs, the other following her restless hand as she sifted the fine volcanic dust of the mountain through her fingers. "I'm sorry I went on so at you this morning about your meditating. Most people who're into that sort of thing seem so smug and self-righteous. They've found the answer. I'm not saying that's true of you – I wouldn't be here if I thought it was. I just...react, that's all." "I understand. I considered not doing it, for that very reason. But hell, this is the kind of situation where it's most beneficial." "What kind of situation?" There was an inflection of hopeful interest in her voice that Eugene couldn’t miss, nor was he intended to, although he could sense her restraint as well. He tried to match her light touch. "New experience...feelings stirring that I haven't felt for a while." "Hmmm. How does meditation help? Not by restricting them I hope." "Not at all. More like the opposite, by providing a
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy sort of sanctuary – like your pool." "I like that." "Yeah, I actually feel freer to give in to my feelings. Than I might otherwise." "You don't quite trust them do you?" "I've had reason in the past not to." "Oh?" "Like everyone else, I'm sure; it's no big deal. I
didn't murder anyone in a fit of rage or anything. But I know how feelings can rule if they get the chance." "Well of course, what's wrong with that?" "I guess it depends on the feelings." "Not the feelings. Feelings by themselves never hurt anyone." "When do you ever have feelings by themselves? I'm talking about feelings that led to actions." "But you don't strike me as someone with anything to be concerned about. You don't have some deep dark secret do you?" "I told you, it's no big thing. But it's nothing to be proud of either. I guess I'm talking about using people."
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy "Using or being used?" "...Both. I'm trying to learn a better balance: of feelings and..." "...And what?" "I don't know, my mind's not working very well all of a sudden. How'd we get into talking about feelings anyway? Oh yeah – it's interesting, what you said about my being afraid of them." "I didn't say you were afraid of them. I said you didn't trust them." "You did?" "Uh huh." "...Maybe 'afraid' is more accurate. Anyway, when I'm going through a lot emotionally, that's when
meditation's most helpful. It's like I'm able to step out of myself – rise above any turmoil that's going on and take a look at it. Not analyze it; just look at it, be aware of it." She nodded, encouraging him to continue. "I get in touch with a part of me that sees beyond the things bothering me. Like some higher elevation where I can see my life as part of something far greater. I’m just part of the landscape – and so are my problems; they
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy seem a lot less significant. They lose their hold over me."
"Is getting to know someone like this a problem for you?" The question was asked so gently, there was no sting in it. He was able to return her smile. "That's a good question....It can be difficult – let's put it that way." "Maybe that goes along with not trusting your feelings." Yeah, trust was certainly part of it, and not just of his feelings. But he didn't see any point in stating the obvious. He just nodded. They fell silent, drifting into that light sensory hypnosis that campfires and summer evenings make so hard to resist. Something of what Eugene had been saying nagged at Catherine's stubbornly resistant mind. All this talking about feelings was starting to seem pointless to her. Although she'd known people who would rather talk about life than live it, she hadn't known them long – and she wasn't about to encourage Eugene. But she knew he was becoming emotionally involved with her. That was enough for now.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy "What's wrong with a little turmoil?" she asked silkily. "Maybe you just haven't been involved with the right kind." Her smile cut through Eugene's muddled thoughts as if someone had pulled the plug on his
computer. Her hand moved slowly to the top button of her blouse. That lovely warm smile was so innocently inviting. The blouse came off. Then so did the no-bra bra. Her breasts looked up at him like impudent white Persian cats, or ermine in their white winter coats: they had that sleek saucy look to them. Except that already he was imagining them in his mouth. Either one would more than fill it. And they were so firm! What a joy they'd be to suck, his lips floating over the smooth, taut, slippery flesh, plump and round to fill his mouth or the cupped palms of his hands....Round: was there anything on God's earth more perfectly and deliciously round than a woman's breasts?...anything that made the mouth more want to shape itself into an urgent slavering "O"? Her dainty pink nipples filled out and stood up like rosettes as he watched them. It excited Catherine to see that his cock was doing the same as she wriggled out of
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy her tight jeans and bikini pants at the same time. Her body unveiled was just simply breathtaking, embodying
exquisite feminine variations on this theme of roundness and curves that can drive a man bananas. It certainly had Eugene, and she was longing to feel his in her hand and mouth and deep inside of her. But she wanted to play too. "Come on," she said huskily. "The water will be freezing, but we've got the fire." With that, her body, an hourglass of golden sand flowing from one polished, sculpted curve into another, slipped into the darkness of the trees. "Bring a towel!" she called back to him. Eugene could only breathe deeply and shake his head. In his excitement and desire he imagined that he could see his own face: a caricature of the aroused male animal. Suddenly realizing that he still just sat here, dressed, he peeled off his clothes, grabbed the single towel they'd brought with them, and thought to throw another log on the fire. Then he followed her to the gathering roar of the falls. She was already standing in the moonlit pool, pale and trembling against a silver curtain of water. Hunched and hugging her arms tight against her body, Catherine
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy was shivering from excitement, the cold, and anticipation. Eugene's lean muscular body looked to her
like it belonged here. The mass of hair on his chest and strong lithe legs, the dark vertical line of hair cleaving his abdomen from chest to navel, and the pubic hair surrounding his swinging, slightly swollen penis was, in a sense, the forest's signature. He tested the frigid water with his foot, and the smooth surface of the opposite thigh tightened into a muscular topography to support his weight. The sudden metamorphosis reminded her of that latent masculine power she loved to call forth. "Hurry up!" she pleaded, "I'm fr-freezing!" He could understand why. His right foot felt as though it had been quick–frozen at the ankle – or amputated, and what he was experiencing was phantom-limb pain. But now was no time to turn back. He waded boldly out into the middle of the pool, plucked Catherine from the water and, carefully negotiating the slippery bottom, carried her toward the waterfall. "Don't you dare!" she shrieked. Her violent thrashing succeeded only in getting them both wet as Eugene stumbled with her. But he quickly regained his
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
balance and stepped with his wet squirming armload right into the middle of the icy fall of water. It sucked the air from their lungs as suddenly and completely as if they'd collapsed. He staggered back and set Catherine down while they both caught their breaths, then let go with a lusty rebel yell: Yea-hahhh! "Oh Lo–ord!" she managed to get out. "Are you...c-ccrazy?" Eugene threw back his head and roared. "G-ggoddamned right!" he mimicked her. "B-b-beat you to the towel!" He did but tossed it to her, and she applied it to her goose-pimpled skin with a vengeance while he frankly watched and enjoyed. Taking pity on his own naked, violently shaking body, she didn't keep it nearly as long as she'd have liked. "See you back at the fire," she said, hurrying up the trail with the exaggerated stealth common to cartoon characters and the tender-footed, as he began toweling himself vigorously. She was grateful for the additional log and added two more from the stack they'd gathered earlier. Then she put on just her panties. Her skin was tingling deliciously, and with a fire the warm night
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
required no clothes at all. Modesty alone was responsible for the panties – that and her knowledge that she was more seductive in them than in nothing. As Eugene finished drying himself, he was replaying their slippery skirmish in the pool. She had squirmed in his arms like an eel vibrator; the feel of her flesh had been burned into his senses: electroshock for the libido. At one point in their tussle, he'd been pleasantly startled to find himself holding her by the crotch. It wasn't intentional and had lasted only an instant as the two of them thrashed about in front of the waterfall. But now he had time to really feel her there against his outspread hand. His mind was certainly receptive to the sensation, even if it had happened too quickly for his hand to feel the full effect. What a tasty sensory salad: the scratchiness of her pubic hair, a sort of parsley texture, combined with the avocado squishiness he had encountered just inside her vagina. He felt himself stirring – a little more and he could darn near hang the towel on it. He draped it over his shoulder instead – the towel, that is – and the sexual energy that had been concentrating in the
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy tumescent organ dissipated and began to rise, until his whole body was tingling with it as he crept back up the trail.
He was most pleased to find her dressed as she was – or wasn't. "...Don't you look fetching," he said, stopping short to admire the way the firelight played across her creamy skin. He framed her with his hands and outstretched thumbs, like a self-important movie director. "Can you imagine what a scene like this would do for backpacking?" She laughed. "It'd be a disaster. The whole damn country'd take to the woods, and the wildlife would have to go live in the city." "Better than the wildlife that's there now," she said. "If I thought taking my clothes off was all it would take to clean up the cities, I'd ride Jebel naked down the main streets of every city in the United States." Eugene dropped the towel on the open sleeping bag on which she was luxuriously reclined before the fire and sat down beside her. "You'd be one saddle–sore lady." They looked into each other's eyes...there was nothing more to be said. They leaned together slowly and he
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy brought just the tips of his fingers to her cheeks. Their lips met so lightly that each could clearly feel the shape and texture of the other's. He took her lower lip between his own and sucked it gently, then ran the tip of his tongue inside the slippery crescent of the upper. Her mouth went slack and he thrust his tongue deeper, exploring with delicate, hungry curiosity every sweet mysterious recess and corner of her mouth. When that was no longer enough he sealed her lips
with his own and began to suck against them rhythmically while, moaning in hunger or contentment, she kept her head moving about constantly to alter the way their mouths joined, satisfied for just a second with each new combination. She started sucking the inside of his cheek and then she was nibbling at it, and all the while her tongue stayed out of the way by being even more aggressive than either her lips or teeth. Eugene reached down, slipped his hands beneath her hips and, with her assistance, lifted her onto his lap. She scooted up against him and wrapped her legs around his waist, rubbing her slick, soaked panties against his erect penis.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy
Of course this couldn't go on for long. His fingers found the waistband and she blew his mind by the way she pulled her legs from around him and cocked them clear back against her chest to help him remove the tiny garment. When it was completely off after an impatient kick or two, she took hold of his penis, nuzzled it just inside her swollen lips and, as they both gasped, wriggled down against him until he was deep inside her. Taking her by the waist, feeling her wonderful tight ripe roundness within the curve of his hands, he began to bounce her on his lap as she hooked her feet behind him and tightened her legs against his hipbones with the ferocity of a woman possessed. While she posted, hypnotized, on his cock, her face upturned and flushed, her nostrils flared and her mouth rigidly open in the inverse lockjaw of sexual ecstasy, he buried his face against first one breast and then the other, rubbing his lips and tongue and open mouth passionately across the firm luscious fruits of flesh on a film of his own saliva – sucking the excited buds of her nipples until it felt, to both Catherine and Eugene, as though they were about to burst.
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy It was thrilling to be manhandled this way, to be
served and used with such ease. She surrendered more and more of herself to the strong hands that gripped her hips and waist and to the organ driving heat into her belly and light into her brain. The plunging phallus was producing waves of such intense pleasure it was as if the walls of her womb were unrolling to turn themselves inside out for it. It was difficult to distinguish between these rolling waves about to become contractions and the relentless penis generating them. When at last Eugene felt the first faint intimation of his orgasm, he abruptly slowed the gait of this dream stallion Catherine was riding with such rapt concentration. She grabbed his wrists and, while keeping him inside her, snaked her legs from around him so that she was supporting herself on her knees on either side of his legs. "Easy," he whispered hoarsely, leaning back on his outstretched arms. She smiled, her eyes glazed, then closed them completely to savor the sweet warmth in her loins, the body's hearth. Then in a few moments, with infinite sensitivity, keeping him deep within her, she
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy began to gyrate in delicate, minute circles against his pubic bone. He grasped the back of her neck, feeling the luxuriant weight of her hair against it, letting the fingers of his other hand glide across her slippery labia. When they were thoroughly lubricated, he reached up to cradle her full breast in the palm of his hand, kneading the engorged nipple with her own aromatic juices. No longer was subtlety any part of Catherine's fucking – it was frenzied now. He was about to come; for the first time he looked fully into her face. His eyes had been alternately open and closed, and he'd caught only glimpses of her
fleeting, tortured expressions. The pleading, mesmerized, wanton and primitive abandon he saw there grabbed hold of his incipient climax and began to pull it out by the roots. He heard a voice which he was dimly aware was his own and then another higher–pitched one joining it in a complex oratorio in which the two of them somehow managed to suggest an entire orchestra and chorus performing some orphic, primeval rite of spring. Finally it was too much, too much! They exploded
THE SHASTA GATE – Croy together. He plowed himself again and again into her
uplifted, offered vagina. She received and absorbed every thrust, every last shuddering spasm – rolling them over inside herself in that feminine reciprocity which converts thrust and counterthrust to concentric waves of pleasure. That was the first time they made love.